Saturday, August 9, 2008

Into the profane

Hebrews 13:12-14..."so Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come."

It seems unmistakable that the author of Hebrews is illuminating the sanctifying work of Christ with the Day of Atonement imagery from Leviticus 16. One goat had all of Israel's sin placed upon its head and then was released, alive, OUTSIDE the camp and into the wilderness (Lev 16:21), the other goat, along with a bull, were sacrificed but then taken OUTSIDE the camp to be burned (Lev 16:27). Whether the author of Hebrews has the scapegoat, the sacrificial goat, or perhaps both in mind is a matter of continuing debate (and wont be commented on until further study), but it is sufficient for this entry that one recognizes the thematics. It is also worth noting that in Israel's law and customs, outside the camp was a place for the unclean: the leper, the menstruating, the men who know, and others who had any number of foul diseases. The point being, outside the camp was the place for those outside the community...and that is where Jesus went, so that he might be sacrificed and made to sanctify those in need, being ridiculed and scorned as he went.

And what of us? The text is clear that we, along with the original recipients, are to go out as well, but not just to go out, to go out to him, and not just go out to him but to go out and receive the reproach that he received. Our venture is not one of atoning work; ours is one of identification and immitation with the life death and resurrection of Christ, an identification that leads to the world rejecting us as it did the one they had just crucified.

But what's the deal with going outside the camp? And why have i centred this blogging endeavor around such imagery? Cant we be like Christ inside the city, and does this mean God intends his people to be a rural people? The answer, i think lay in the ancient, and to some extent even the modern, worldview in regards to symbolism. The ancients considered the city a sacred place, a place of safety, home, a place where gods and men, the infinite and finite meet, and while there were other symbols for this idea, the home, temples, mountain tops etc., none seem to be used more prolifically than the city. On the other hand, outside the city, the wilderness, the sea was considered profane, a dangerous, mysterious, daunting place. So for Christ to go outside the city is for Christ to go to the profane, and in so doing, sanctify, or if you will, holify, it. This i believe is the heart of the commission that we are given in go into those areas of life considered profane and unholy and reclaim them as parts of God's Kingdom. Essentially that is what we are doing with human beings when we evangelize; they are lost, alienated from God, unholy, and we are to bring them into His Kingdom. But i believe, and the reason for this blog, is that all of creation is to be reclaimed. We ought not only care for man's soul being brought back, but the whole man. This includes artistically, intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Beyond man, there is also an entire created universe that has fallen under profane dominion.

The task here, and in all my life will be to quest outside the safe confines of our "cities" and into the profanity that creation has become...the risk of such conquest is reproach and even death, but what a glorious lot to be treated as the King. For as the author of Hebrews we have no city, for we await another one. How ironic that the gospel calls us out of what the world considers sacred, into the mire and despair of the wilderness, so that we might enter into the truly sacred, the city of God.

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